Democracy, as we see it today across Europe, is not a given norm but an ever expanding and evolving concept with many highly debatable facets. In recent years, the make up of European democracy has changed drastically with the emergence of new democracies being born and some of the world's oldest democracies being manipulated and tweaked. One of the main tenets of any democracy is the bottom up approach of turning the electoral decisions of its populace into a strong, fair and representative government. But why should we care so much how this is implemented? In this essay I will look to answer why we should care how votes are translated into seats in Europe today.
I will analyze key issues from a range of different European countries so as to explain how, and to what extent, the electoral system of a country affects its wider political implications. In order to do this, I will firstly define the term electoral system and discuss where it sits in the wider political spectrum. I will then start my analysis by discussing one of the key issues surrounding electoral systems that of representation. I will look into what systems are intended to represent the populace of a country best, and whether they succeed. I will then move on to the issue of stability, where I will consider whether electoral systems centered on creating stable governments are omitting other key issues and whether they are even succeeding in creating stability at all. I will then proceed to the ability of electoral systems to allow change in government. Here I will look into how certain countries' electoral systems keep parties in power and others keep certain parties out.
Finally, before concluding, I will look into the issue of electoral engagement and how it affects the governance of a country, and to what extent electoral systems play a role in this. I will then conclude by outlining why I believe this research justifies why we should care about how votes are translated into seats.
[...] The Politics of Electoral Reform (E-book). Oxford: OUP. Available through: University of Sussex Library website < http://catalogue.sussex.ac.uk/ABL/>. (Accessed 14th November 2010). Blais, A. Dobrzynska, and Indridason, I. (2005). Adopt or Not to Adopt Proportional Representation: The Politics of Institutional Choice'. British Journal of Political Science (E-journal) Available through: JISC Cambridge Journals Digital Archive. (Accessed 15th November 2010). Curtice, J. (2003). Electoral System', in V. Bogdanor (ed.). The British Constitution in the 20th Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, [...]
[...] However, majoritarian electoral systems are not the sole deterrence of extremism. France, for example, advocates a majoritarian system, but was still able to pass a bill banning the wearing of religious symbols in schools. This can be viewed as extreme in itself. Leading on from my last point, I would now like to discuss the issue of stability. The stability of government is something most associated with plurality/majority electoral systems. The dwindling numbers of countries in Europe still advocating plurality/majority systems often cite stability as the key reason to maintaining it, and rarely consider an alternative. [...]
[...] In the case of the worst performer: Poland, we can put the failings down to the early changes to its electoral system that were ironically introduced to decrease the number of wasted votes and have paradoxically decreased the electoral turn out. Overall, we can say that the electoral system a country holds can affect the electoral turnout it receives. However, there is no drastic empirical evidence to show which electoral system offers the best voter turnout ratio. The electoral system of a country affects a variety of elements in political and social life. [...]
[...] Why would a country like the United Kingdom want to continue with the dominance of a two-party system when no real stability can be seen? Evictions of governments and electoral engagement have also posed serious questions towards what electoral system countries should adopt. Electoral systems can be pivotal in evicting governments, but they can also be stringent in maintaining governments. Electoral engagement can be increased by electoral system change but there is no one defining factor to the decline of electoral engagement. [...]
[...] I will then conclude by outlining why I believe this research justifies why we should care about how votes are translated into seats. In order to offer a conclusive answer to the above question, I will first define what I mean by electoral systems and how it, and its subtleties and frailties, are the foundation for my argument. Gallagher and Mitchell in their 2005 work define electoral systems as set of rules that structure how votes are cast at elections for a representative assembly and how these votes are then converted into seats in that assembly.' (Gallagher and Mitchell p. [...]
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